How to Debunk a Frightening Myth

I wrote this one in the days leading up to Comic-Con. I don't think I need to explain beyond that.

Thanks again for using my Amazon Affiliate links  (USUKCanada).

« Why I Make a Point of Telling People That I Don't Like Sports | How to Get to the Root Cause of Your Irritation »

Reader Comments (36)

Not true! I have had several organs harvested, at least three of them in icy bathtubs, the most recent of which was my brain. (I don't remember if there was ice or not during the brain removal, but I do seem to remember a bathtub...somehow.) On an unrelated note, I've decided to run for Congress, so don't forget to vote this fall!

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I love the argument in panel 4.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaige

Second panel -> Probably* (I've always wanted to do this yay me)

Note from Scott: No, sorry, I did mean "provably."

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMacrosporium

I vigorously approve of this debunking by technical details method rather than the more common "this website/book/doctor/talking hat says they debunked the technical details" method, or almost equally common "this website says that something else says there is no evidence for that thing, therefore that thing cannot be true despite other websites actually providing evidence."

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRavenBlack

"Guys who know that that's never happened to anyone" -- I can't parse this.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

When I first heard of this rumor, I thought about it and figured that if it were true, and the thieves were "kind" enough to try to leave the person alive, they wouldn't be cruel enough to steal both kidneys and leave the person to live the rest of his life on dialasis (sorry about spelling). If (this seemed more likely) they were cruel enough, they'd probably kill the person by taking every useful organ that was there.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristina L

I actually wrote a song about this sort of scenario once (it's at if anyone's interested) and it's kind of amazing to me how many people come up to me after shows to either ask if it really happens, or to /tell/ me it happens.

August 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacob Haller

"Boring details win again"?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPjotr

The thing I always thought was stupid about that is, surely you put the *kidney* on ice, not the PERSON. You leave a person unconscious in a bath of ice for any significant amount of time, aren't they going to die of hypothermia?

When was the last time you had an operation in a hospital and they *iced* you?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

Scott's first speech bubble ("What? Guys who know that that's never happened to anyone?") doesn't seem to make any grammatical sense, considering the sentence he's replying to. Is this a mistake or some sort of regional lingo that I'm not getting?

It may indeed be regional, but it works for those of us from Warshinton. Read as "Guys who know that [such a thing as that has] never happened to anyone." ~Missy

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEsn

Sadly, the lack of intellectual honesty in my opponents keeps my "win" percentalge too low in these kinds of arguments.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

First panel reply is clunky. Should be "Who? Guys who know that's never happened to anyone?"

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony

I've filled hotel bathtubs with ice on many occasions, when throwing parties at conventions. It's not that hard -- it takes several trips, but I've never had any hotel personnel even notice me. One tip is to use the room's wastebasket for transporting the ice to the room, not the tiny little ice bucket that they give you.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMorris Keesan

Don't get so hung up on the kidney myth debate that you miss the best line of this comic: "A hundred bucks will answer a lot of questions."

It's my personal mission to use this line at least once a week.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

@macrosporium and scott:

The funny thing is, "provably" is what "probably" means, at least before everyone seems to have decided that "probably" meant "uhh, maybe." This is what that legal phrase "probable cause" was supposed to mean, by the way: "I have reason to believe a crime is being committed, and I can demonstrate those reasons," rather than, "well, Your Honor, there's a crime being committed in there, uhh, maybe?"

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkhereva

It totally is a true story! It happened to me! You can believe me because I'm writing about it on the internet!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Cool

@Resuna: Can you parse "People who know that kidney harvesting never happened to anyone"?

Yes? Good.

Now grow up and get over yourself.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCzernobog


"What? You're saying I'm the kind of guy who knows that that's never happened to anyone?"

I'm pretty sure the above sentence is what Scott was implying but it's too long, repetitive, and not necessarily the way we speak. I do believe it is parsable if not in fact parsabilitious!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Everyone knows that organ smugglers run their "donor" operation out of an old, abandoned ice factory. Meanwhile, they run the "donee" operation out of an old, abandoned hospital--using disgraced doctors who have had their medical licenses revoked. Do I have to explain everything?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSoul of Wit

Actually, it's unfortunate but theft of organs is quite real. However, the "wake up in an icy bathtub" is almost definitely apocryphal. Instead, victims (who are generally not travelers, who are usually white and affluent and who could bring real risk to the process, but are usually natives) are just killed, all of their organs harvested. The vast majority of the international organ trade is "voluntary", with really poor people selling their corneas, kidneys, lobes of lung, etc., but there's substantial evidence of involuntary trade as well, especially when considering death squads and Death Row prisoners.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArekExcelsior2

When it came to the Kidney Theft Myth my question was always: Why would they leave you in a bathtub full of ice when you still have another perfectly valuable kidney? What, they were good enough to remove one, and willing to break several laws in the process, but they weren't willing to maximize profit and get rid of the witnesses at the same time?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSparky


Nevertheless, that's how the urban legend goes. You pick up someone in a foreign country, who slips you knockout drops. You wake up in a bathtub full of ice next to a phone with a note saying "We've removed one of your kidneys. Call an ambulance." And, indeed, there is a fresh new scar along your lower abdomen.

(cue creepy music)

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave

A great prank to play on a drunken weekend to Mexico with friends

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhunter


I've heard of emergency rooms using ice and huge plastic bags to lower 'freeze' someone during cardiac events. The lowered core temperature supposedly delays brain damage if they think they can get circulation going again.

I am not a doctor, and it's late and I don't feel like looking this up right now, but it's plausible.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Amazing how people parse that bizarre sentence differently while insisting that it's obvious.

Also, definitely worth commenting here, just to see everyone's comments before moderation.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

Scott and Misty:

Your comic is, as always, a bright spot in my day! One minor suggestion that would help (at least me) get more enjoyment out of your comments as well as the comics.... please consider making comments that you (Scott or Misty) make in reply to other's comments in BOLD so that they stand out more from the other comics. I think that is what you did on the previous rendition of the website and it made it easier to find your comments... which usually meant the commenter's comments were especially interesting.


August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPipeTobacco

@Missy, your grammatical "correction" ("Guys who know that [such a thing as that has] never happened to anyone.") still makes no sense to me. "that that's" not the problem; that phrasing is acceptable English.

I think the problem is that Jenkins is talking about a "guy" in the singular, while Scott is talking about "guys" in the plural, so it's really easy to misinterpret the dialogue and believe Scott is talking about something else. This could be fixed either by changing Scott's statement to "What? The kinda guy who knows that...", or changing Jenkins's statement to "You're one of those guys that get their kidneys harvested".

Please modify, I think this was a simple error that makes comprehension needlessly more difficult.

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEsn

..."knockout drops"? ...

...or do you really mean... ... a "mickey"???...


August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwle

I suppose the theory of the legend is (1) if you weren't actually murdered, the police try a lot less hard to find out who did it, and anyway they're being paid off, and (2) if the bad guys kill you then you aren't around to write the e-mail and send it to everyone in the world; in fact no one hears about it at all.

If you just kill a random poor person to take their organs then you have no idea of diseases and infections that they may have to pass on. On the other hand, the illegal transplant trade probably doesn't do a lot of repeat business anyway. If you're going to be executed in China then I think a good disease to get may be hepatitis. It isn't necessarily bad for you, but a transplant patient with suppressed immune system is gonna be in trouble, I figure.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Carnegie


I thought of that, but, this is the internet, so I immediately thought better of using the phrase "slips you a mickey."

August 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave

A "mickey"... not to be confused with a "rabbit punch".

...Yeah, I don't know what either one is, either.

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I think you meant 'donkey punch', though some would say that that is an applied' 'rabbit punch'
Also, I don't know what you are all whining about. I had no problem understanding that line and I'm not even a native speaker of English, so yeah...

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterI of Horus

It's cool that you capitalize Internet since you also capitalize Television, Radio, Music, Civilization, Psychology, Cinema, Sports, Technology, Mathematics, Literature, Botany, Language and so on.

January 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian McInnis

Internet is a proper noun. The term 'internet' without the capital letter refers to any network beyond a LAN, with the capital letter it refers to tge contiguous interconnected networks of the world.

January 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterResuna

@Kristina, two things:
1. "Dialysis" is the correct spelling.
2. Each kidney is 150% efficient at doing its job. A person can easily live with one kidney and not need dialysis. Kidney failure means both kidneys are below 50% capacity and is when you start to need dialysis

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMoistRobot

1. "Dialysis" is the proper spelling.
2. Each kidney operates at 150% efficiency independent of the other. A person with one kidney does not need dialysis unless the remaining kidney starts to fail. Kidney failure is brought on by both kidneys being under 50% efficiency independently.

@Resuna: Internet is not a proper noun. The term "internet" has become interchangeable with "world wide web". Since it didn't exist until a few decades ago, the terminology hasn't quite settled yet but will likely do so in the next decade as children grow up with it and have their own kids who can't think of a world without the internet.

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMoistRobot
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.